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Accelerating Global Bible Translations

by | Thu, Feb 22 2024

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It’s estimated that around half of the 7,400 known languages in the world, have been translated into Scriptures. Six billion people can access a full Bible in one of 736 languages. Another 824 million have access to a New Testament in one of 1658 other languages. Half a billion more can read some Scriptures in another 1264 languages.

That covers more than 7.4 billion people, even though the planet’s population now tops eight billion. (There is a lag in matching languages with ethnicities.) Mission Network News (MNN) reports Bible translation is currently happening in 3,283 languages in 167 countries. Those languages and people numbers are embedded in the categories At least Some Scripture and Initial Work in Progress.

At the start of the century, the world’s biggest Bible translator Wycliffe set a goal to begin a translation in every remaining language by 2025. “It was really a God-sized prayer saying Lord What would we need to do in order to see all these languages started by 2025?’” said Wycliffe USA President and CEO John Chesnut, who has just overseen the release of four new Bible translations in Madagascan languages under the Vision 2025 Project.

He told MNN that in 1999, new translation projects were started every two weeks on average. Now, the pace has accelerated to a new project being launched every 17 hours. Most of the new languages are for small and isolated tribes and communities covering a total population of around 200 million, but which present major challenges for translators. “They’re in some of the hardest places globally. That may be the remoteness aspect of it, or behind political barriers, or often major religions. And so access to a lot of these areas has been very difficult,” Mr Chesnut explained.

But he added: “We’re seeing God move already in ways that we could not have even imagined just a couple of years ago. He’s raising up his global Church to carry this out.” The Wycliffe website notes there are possibly around 1,150 languages covering just 700 million people for whom a Bible translation may not be necessary.

Photo: Wycliffe Associates